Slice of Life exhibit ‘Born to Make You Happy’
By Alexis Zygan, Staff Writer
“I didn’t want ‘Born to Make You Happy’ to be overtly sexual, rather a celebration of femme artists and creatives in Vancouver and how they embody their definitions of beauty.”– Tina Rensby
Thursday, April 22 was opening night for Born to Make You Happy, a visual art exhibit featuring analogue photography by Tina Rensby. The Other Press had the chance to speak with Rensby over the phone about her upcoming exhibition, shooting on 35mm film, and her relationship to femininity. “I didn’t want Born to Make You Happy to be overtly sexual, rather a celebration of femme artists and creatives in Vancouver and how they embody their definitions of beauty. One of the ways I perform my gender is by taking feminine photos,” says Rensby. The print of a woman dressed in a monochromatic colour scheme adorned with angel wings radiates ethereal beauty. With its fiery hue, it calls to mind a femme cupid.
“I am a Taurus sun, ruled by Venus, so I am very romantic. I have big heart eyes for human beings,” explains Rensby. She is inspired by pop music, classical art, and astrology. Born to Make You Happy is named after a song recorded by pop icon Britney Spears, in which the lyrics speak of the universal experience of hopelessly yearning for a lover post break up.
When creating, the concept of meaning exists as an afterthought. “I never set out to make art about femininity, it just happened that way. I am a feminine person and that comes through in my work.” Rensby does not ask the models to dress or look a certain way but instead encourages them to embody their authentic selves. She enjoys photographing them at home, where they feel most comfortable. “I prefer an organic and collaborative approach,” she explains. “I don’t have a set idea of how I want photos to look.” During COVID, she ventured outside and took portraits near Jericho Beach.
While Rensby has taken a variety of photographs, she is captivated by women embodying their unique beauty; they are her inspiration. By taking portraits, Rensby has connected with other creatives in Vancouver.
“My parents bought my first film camera, a point and shoot,” says Rensby. Her childhood photographs were of Barbies and her brother. As a teenager, she purchased an analogue camera and pursued photography as a hobby, taking a liking to the process which she describes as magical. After high school, she studied photography at Emily Carr University, where she learned how to develop prints in a dark room.
To this day, she prefers analogue over digital. Though, she has upgraded to a professional level Nikon S3. There are barriers to achieving clear images with a Nikon S3 due to the absence of autofocus and her poor eyesight. Her Pentax camera is handy for achieving sharp images as it has auto focus. With a roll of film costing around $10 per roll, choosing a camera that ensures more images turn out makes sense.
As for 35mm film, Rensby prefers Kodak Porta; however, she does not believe the price makes it worthwhile. “I usually shoot with Kodak Gold or Fujifilm Superia because that is what is available and affordable.” Fujifilm Superia is available at London Drugs, unlike Kodak Porta, which is only available at local photo supply stores. Shooting on film can be expensive, but for Rensby, this is her passion. “I’ll spend $100 on film and pretend it’s okay,” she says. If you are genuinely interested in a creative endeavour, it always makes sense to invest your time and finances into it. “I am so excited to show my photos in print because I am so used to showing them online. It is so good to see them in real life and not on a computer.”
The photos are displayed at Slice of Life Gallery from April 22 to April 27. Appointments are required to attend private viewings. Tickets cost $10 and they are available for purchase online.